Psalm 107:28-30 “Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out from their distress; and he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad because they had quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven.”
As a child I was taught how to pray on a rosary, saying Hail Mary on small beads and Our Father on larger beads, progressing until the end of the rosary was reached. This didn’t really connect with me at the time, my childish mind would often wander or I’d rush as fast as I could to finish the task so I could ride my bike.
As a young adult, I would wish that I had paid more attention to how to pray. I remember one time when asked to lead grace before dinner, I froze and then bumbled something about “thank you for this food, it looks good, thanks”. Later as I ate, I felt ashamed and wished I had mentioned the others at the table. Or mentioned those who didn’t have food, that they would find a meal. Or ask for peace in the world. Anything but the less than eloquent thing that I had just said.
I then worked on discovering the right way to pray. I tried praying late at night before bed. Sometimes that worked, but other times I’d fall asleep as soon as I hit the pillow. I also tried praying first thing in the morning. That didn’t last long – I’m not a morning person so the motivation waned. And I always struggled with finding the right words to say.
At some point, I stopped obsessing about learning the right prayer formula, and then things got easier. Sometimes it made sense to pray in the middle of the day when I’d learn of prayer concerns. Or if I had trouble sleeping and needed to lift up an anxiety, then that would be the time to do it. Or if I was taking a hike and came upon an absolutely beautiful scene, then I would say thank you. It was random and seemed inexperienced, but I was starting to feel a connection.
Earlier this summer, my husband, children and I traveled to New Orleans by car. As we were driving past Lafayette over wetlands in heavy traffic on a bridge, we encountered a severe storm. Thankfully my husband knew to drive slowly behind a semi following the lights, but I was terrified. I never liked severe storms… I discovered in that moment that I like them even less when I’m in a car, over a bridge, with my husband and children there. I silently prayed. I didn’t remember Psalm 107:28-30, which would have been a completely appropriate prayer under the circumstances. Instead I started repeating Our Fathers (a prayer I say regularly) and Hail Mary’s (a prayer I haven’t said often since childhood).
In my terror, I know I forgot some of the lines at times, or started mixing up the prayers, and I’m certain I didn’t say them in the proper order for the rosary that I wasn’t even holding… but my fear dissipated and I felt some sense of calm even as the storm raged on. At some point, the weather calmed and an exit appeared. We were safe, and so were the others on the road.
I now realize that prayer is not about perfection or eloquence. It’s about faith and a personal connection with God.
Matthew 21:22 “Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive”